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I had transferred to a different city and hence a new school when I was in 8th standard. It was a huge change for my family and me. For me it was hell lot of changes in once, city, school, friends, environment, teachers, study patterns, tuition classes, etc. I was still getting used to the new school, teachers, classmates and their ways when this one more huge change happened. I knew about it from my mom, but it was still a very painful entry to womanhoood. It did hit hard and unsuspected. Well,I got used to the idea and accepted that I've to live with it whether I like it or not.
In my new school there was this tradition of performing Saraswati pooja every Friday in our classroom, complete with pooja thali, flowers, garlands,aarti and prasad. When a guy distributed out the prasad and one of us girls had their periods, we would refuse it under the pretense of a fast! Every Friday a different girl was fasting! And then we ate our tiffins during lunch break too! The guys caught onto this and looked at us suspiciously when we refused the prasad. Once a guy even caught my lies when he peeked into my lunch box! *awkward* It was awkward in high school, now it is just funny. I don't why we girls lied, I never got the point but went with the flow.
I got my answer few years later, in college. While doing my masters one of my friends asked why I look so dull and tired and I straight away told him "I'm on my period, what do you expect!" (Pretty snappy response,I know, but I blame it all on mother nature.) He looked at me like I was about to give him a 'birds and bees talk'! It was then that I understood why my friends in school asked me to say "sorry,I can't take the prasad, I'm fasting!" Oh naiveté!
Well, another time it so happened that my cramps got bad and I had to appear for a viva. There wasn't enough time to go to my place or the college clinic to get meds. Another one of my friends offered me a spasmodic pain tablet and a chocolate he always kept in his bag for his girlfriend. I was surprised to say the least and my respect for him sky-rocketed! It was a complete 360 degree approach to what I was used to and I actually admired that he was so okay with women on periods, their crankiness and cravings. He had accepted it instead of judging and using PMS as a jab at women. I wish more men became like him.
There are men and then there are the commercials, the names of brands for napkins! It's all a sardonic humor, I feel! "Whisper", yeah, no shit Sherlock; that's how girls tell each other they are on their period! "Stayfree" and "Carefree"? Not possible, nuh-uh! That's the last thing we feel while on period. "She", oh yeah, like that explains everything! The napkin commercials are aired on every channel every fifteen minutes and all they stress upon is "un dinon mein...blah blah blah". I was ten and I asked my grandfather what it meant, he was mortified to hear me ask that but covered up saying I would know when I'm old enough. I won't blame him for being mortified though, not his fault if his grand daughter catches these phrases out of all the commercials and magazines!
I really wish the new mothers of boys now teach their kids to be empathetic towards their female peers and not look at them like they hail from a different planet at the mention of periods. I wish they teach their boys that it's not easy to be on periods and girls don't really enjoy it, nor do they wish for it, so making jokes about PMS or ridiculing their female peers is not really a gentlemanly trait. In India, sometimes even the married men are in for a rude awakening when their wives get periods because they're not informed. It's less common but not unheard of. The grown up men get married without the basic knowledge of how to love their wives and understand them when they are in pain, cranky or pain uncomfortable. "Mai kya karoon, mummy se baat karo" is not an answer a wife expects from her husband when she shares her discomfort with him. That's just sad and shame on such men who don't even make an effort to understand.
Also the mention of napkins reminsd me of a recent blog I read which advised about the hygiene and care during menstruation. It was a great article. It prompted me to mention about the eco friendly periods. The menstrual cups are a great option if you get rashes, fissures, sores due to the extra absorbent napkins. It does need guts for the first couple of tries for the cups but after that it's a cake walk. I'm not propagating any product but in case you ladies want to know more, you'll find loads of information, you just have to Google it.
So ladies, laughit off if you've stained your pants or skirts, blatantly ask for chocolates and pain meds to your co-workers when in need of help and accept periods as a cleansing mechanism of your body. If you accept and embrace it your sons and daughters would know that it's natural, inevitable and nothing to be ashamed of. The only downside would be we wouldn't have the sardonic humour!*sighs*